Brighten up with bee balm

Thomas J. Story
A perennial that can double as tea

With its richly colored, long-blooming flowers, bee balm ranks among the showiest summer perennials for intermountain gardens. The long tubular flowers attract a variety of pollinators. The aromatic leaves, whose scent is sometimes compared to a blend of mint and basil, can be used to brew a tea with a flavor akin to Earl Grey.

The species (Monarda didyma) has scarlet flowers; named varieties come in shades of lavender, pink, and red. Plants range in height from 2 to 4 feet tall, forming a 1½-foot-wide clump the first season. New hybrids like 'Gardenview Scarlet' (shown) resist powdery mildew.

Bee balm grows best in full sun or light shade and likes moist, well-drained soil. With deadheading it will bloom two months or more.

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